Google how to be an entrepreneur and you’ll come up with multiple results on how to becoming an entrepreneur and building a business boils down to skills and strategies. You’ll see examples of famous entrepreneurs besides all you have to do is be like them to be successful right? I wish it was that easy.
Succesful business owners know all business strategies fail at some point. Don’t get me wrong, I love productivity and strategy just as much as the next business strategy consultant and Lean Six Sigma practitioner.
In fact, while following my strategic blogging process I reviewed the search engine results page (SERP) and was surprised to find none of them talked about passion. Maybe this is because we don’t think passion is a skill that can be developed. Perhaps it’s because we blame people for startups failing instead of looking at their processes.
The truth is nothing prepares you for what success or failure looks like while building a company. Investing in startups is more about increasing skill sets than cash. Money won’t save you if you don’t have a process to turn your failures into actionable insight.
I’m fortunate enough to have bootstrapped both my companies so there’s really no one else I can blame for my mistakes. I wrote this post for myself and other entrepreneurs. These are the top 4 fails I’m struggling with this week.
Becoming An Entrepreneur Fail 1: Habits vs Process
The problem with most business strategy is that it doesn’t account for us as for our gaps. It doesn’t account for our current processes or habits. They don’t measure or close gap is between what we’re capable of now vs what we need to be capable of.
Most days as entrepreneur, you don’t know what you’re doing causing you to be in a constant state of depleting your willpower and discipline. It doesn’t matter how much you invest in your startup. You have to invest in habit stacking; invest in changing your habits and process now to get close to where you need to be.
Habits are just another way to talk about processes. I like to use processes over habits because habits seem so personal. They feel like a reflection of my value as a person so I start to think of myself in black and white terms (e.g. success or failure)
Innovation is constantly failing so you can’t think in black and white or you’ll never last. You need to live in “the grey” by building processes that:
- Give you the freedom to fail
- Gain insight from failure
- Forgive failure fast to go do it again
Fail 2: Invest in Discipline and Willpower
The great thing about working with venture capital funds and private equity firms is that you’re constantly getting an education in how to be better. I get a healthy dose of seeing how we’re all struggling and that’s ok as long as you keep going.
It’s been over 3 years since I started my first company but I’m still surprised at how things wrong. The same week I’ve been struggling I’ve been fortunate enough to laugh about it with 2 friends and 2 other CEOs who also “just can’t right now”.
After my first year of entrepreneurship, I specifically scheduled time to recharge. Afterall, if I schedule my work (i.e. what’s draining me) I should schedule time to recharge. I’ve had great results with:
- Reading fiction instead of business books (who knew…)
- Yoga (hot, advanced yoga so I’m too exhausted to think)
- Scheduling time to eat and drink too much with friends (who knew…)
- Running outside
Even though this was working, all processes are temporary. I’ve been increasing the stress and drain on myself but I didn’t add refine my countermeasures. I’m going to experiment with these additional recharges:
- Meditation – 5 mins per day 2X per day
- Visual management (whiteboard decal with daily business targets, actual and gaps for process improvement)
- Teaching Lean Six Sigma
Fail 3: Great Businesses Find Joy in the Struggle
I came across a Reddit post today where the original poster asked which skills they needed to be a successful entrepreneur. The post struck out at me because I could easily see myself 10 years ago asking the same question.
I only went to college because they said I had to. I loved learning but I no plan. A professor told me I was good at Accounting so I changed my major. Not once did I stop to ask myself if I enjoyed Accounting. This appears to be a pattern of mine. I’m not very good at having fun.
Ashley – 0, Real Life – 1.
Maybe it’s because I’ve got a Type A personality. But the harder you work, the more you need to relax. If I’d known I would have scheduled time for fun on my Google calendar at a regular frequency. That’s what you do too right?
I told the original poster it’s great to have a plan but all your plans will fail. This is the first thing you learn as an entrepreneur. The only thing that’s going to keep you from quitting, is your passion.
I was mid-sentence when I realized I had lost my passion. The problem with being a process improvement consultant is you can’t help yourself from seeing how a process is going to fail. This coupled with my Type A personality means I get stuck in a loop of improvement trying to reach perfection.
I’ve gotten to lost in my process loop, I lost focus on my own passion. I had to stop and make a list of things I can do to rediscover my flow.
Building a Business Fail 4: Perfection over Progress
Lean Startup works because it allows you to fail. The problem is you have to set data-based goals to fail towards or you can’t tell if you’re getting closer to success. It’s important to remember to let go of the perfect product or service and focus on solving some portion of your customer’s problem.
We’re all embarrassed by the first version of our product or service. We’ve all got blog posts that could be improved if we talked to our customers. Almost every website can be improved to remove friction from the customer experience. Hell, all 3 of these apply to me right now.
Greatness is built one face plant at a time.
This is about solving our customers’ problem in a way where they can’t help but give you cash they’re so grateful. If you’re hanging back in your office trying to get it right first, stop and get out of the office.
Failure is innovation. Failure is like building up callouses when you train for a marathon. It’s just your body saying – “hey you’re a little soft, let’s toughen up so we can survive this thing.”
So I say this to myself as much as I say it to you:
- Your process/product/whatever isn’t perfect and that’s ok
- Your embarrassing process/product can still create revenue
- You’ll continuously improve until your repugnantly imperfect little process/product becomes the best on the market
You know what’s not embarrassing – outlasting the competition because they were too soft to finish the race.
Business Building is Experimentation
Because we’re always testing, I tested a different blog post process. For the past 2 weeks, I’ve had an open blog post that I hated working on with each passing day. My theory was I’d lost the passion for writing because I was focusing on perfection over what I wanted to talk about.
This post wasn’t even on my marketing content schedule! I can see all of you clutching your pearls right now.
I knocked out this post out in 1 hour. That’s only a time measurement so what about quality? I wrote this for my entrepreneur ideal customer persona met both my SEO keyword, word count and readability goals.
Granted I need to improve both before posting, write emails begging for backlinks and do a proper SERP review but it ain’t too shabby. As my momma famously says, “I didn’t hate it as much.”